The BBC's extra HD stream on Freeview for the Olympics has formally appeared in the Freeview HD channel line up, nearly three weeks after first appearing in the background, without a channel number allocation.
301 HD on Freeview HD channel 304 will be an HD simulcast of the red button service on channel 301 for the entire duration of the London Olympics.
The extra HD stream is currently carrying a static caption and is transmitted as with all other HD channels on the Freeview HD multiplex BBC-B/PSB3. Viewers in the Dover, Margate, Canterbury and Maidstone area will gain the service at stage two of digital switchover next week. In all cases, suitable Freeview HD compatible equipment is required to receive the service on channel 304.
On the 1st June, the stream appeared with caption, but it was not assigned to a channel number whilst tests were being carried out. The service officially goes live on the 25th July, although further tests may take place before then.
Some receivers, especially Freeview HD compatible PC cards were able to see the extra stream with caption. For clarification, some media outlets on the internet implied that the caption had already appeared on channel 304 back then, however the majority of Freeview HD receivers would have ignored the service whilst it had no channel allocation. Freeview HD receivers do not need to be manually tuned to add the service - part of the specification for Freeview HD devices is that new channels are automatically detected and added to the line up.
The extra HD service is utilising the fifth available stream on the Freeview HD multiplex, which was made possible due to the installation of a new encoder for the multiplex. Encoder improvements also allowed the other Freeview HD services to increase resolution to 1920x1080 at the beginning of the month.
After the Olympics, the fifth stream will be allocated to another, as yet unknown broadcaster. Channel 5 was originally allocated the slot, but withdrew, allowing the BBC to use the slot for the Olympics. The BBC, due to cost-cutting, has declined the use of the slot on a permanent basis.
Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media viewers will have access to all 24 HD and SD red button streams during the Olympics. Freeview viewers with a connected TV that supports the BBC Sport app will be able to view the extra streams via broadband internet to their TVs. Meanwhile, outgoing BBC Director General Mark Thompson, today confirmed that YouView will not be available for the Olympics - the service was originally supposed to give more Freeview viewers access to the extra content delivered via broadband.